The Atheist’s Motives

Text: Proverbs 4:20-27


I.         Consider the offer

            A.        Atheism offers

                        1.         No absolute morality. Everything is subjective.

                        2.         No meaning to your life. Life is just a span of time, where you suffer for a while before you are squished into oblivion.

                        3.         No hope about your future.

            B.        Christianity offers

                        1.         A clear, absolute morality with guidelines

                        2.         There is a reason for living

                        3.         There are people who care about you

                        4.         There is hope of eternal life of joy

            C.        But some people pick atheism. Some even leave Christianity and become atheists. Why?

II.        People’s behavior are govern by their heart

            A.        Your heart in biblical terms is not your physical organ, but representative of your inner thoughts and emotions

            B.        It needs to be guarded because that is the source of what comes out of us - Proverbs 4:23

                        1.         Evil arises when we allow our thoughts and emotions tug us toward sin - Mark 7:18-23

                        2.         That is a mistake many make today. They see bad behavior and they look for a cause in the outside influences while ignoring the internal motivations.

                        3.         It really comes down to the simple fact that people do things because they want to

            C.        Often something happens in a person’s life

                        1.         Years ago I had an odd discussion with an elder who objected to a lesson that I did on modest dress.

                                    a.         Found out later that his adult daughter chooses not to dress modestly

                        2.         Then there is the person who “restudies” Matthew 19 after their child gets a divorce, and – Surprise! – they now have a different conclusion about whether divorce is allowed by God

                        3.         I’ve seen many times people cave to societal pressures and conclude that women preachers are OK or that living together without being married isn’t a sin.

                        4.         These people will tell you that they are motivated by “love” but it isn’t a love for God

            D.        Have you considered how the Jewish leaders knew that Jesus raised a man from the dead, but plotted to kill him? - John 12:9-11

                        1.         No amount of evidence would convince them of what they had already determined in their hearts.

                        2.         The same fact produced different reactions in people depending on their hearts

                        3.         For the Jewish leaders, the rejection was not due to evidence (though they probably would have claimed that it was). It was because what acceptance would do to them - John 11:47-48

III.       So what motivates atheism?

            A.        Atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel, once said, “I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”

            B.        Often it comes down to a reaction to something that happened

                        1.         Grief at the loss of a loved one

                        2.         Objection to the moral teachings

                                    a.         “I was struggling to identify with the morals of the church I identified with and their very conservative political opinions. I began distancing myself from the church for a while prior to converting to atheism” [“Six stages of becoming an atheist”].

                                    b.         Often the person wants to get involved in something that they know is morally wrong. Their response is to get rid of the moral system.

                        3.         Resentment of being treated badly or seeing corruption in a church.

                                    a.         Thus, it is seen as a form of revenge

                        4.         Objections to a perceived connection between Christianity and conservative politics

                        5.         Having an unbelieving spouse or parents, or parents of warring religious beliefs

            C.        None of these motivations provide justification to conclude that God doesn’t exist

                        1.         You might not like what God allowed to happen to you, but it isn’t an intellectual jump to claim there is no God - Proverbs 19:3

            D.        What they do give a person is a push toward considering that God doesn’t exist as a way of dealing with the inner conflict

                        1.         The problem is that if you want to believe a lie, God will allow a person to go off after the lie - II Thessalonians 2:9-12

                        2.         Thus, as people rejected God, God allowed them to go as they insist

                                    a.         Romans 1:22-25 - Replacing God with one of their own making

                                    b.         Romans 1:26 - Replacing morality with perversions

                                    c.         Romans 1:28 - Replacing intellect with depravity

            E.        Overtime, pride sets in.

                        1.         The atheist sees himself as superior to other men

                        2.         To claim there is no God means you become a god to yourself - Proverbs 12:15

                        3.         Which is why David noted - Psalms 14:1-3

                        4.         Pride is what shields an atheist from considering the possibility that he is wrong - Proverbs 18:2

IV.      Convincing the atheist

            A.        Too often brethren try to reason with a person drifting into atheism.

                        1.         They point out the logical flaws in their reasoning, but it makes no impact

                        2.         But that is because they aren’t seeking atheism because of reason - Proverbs 23:9

                        3.         Destroy one reason, they will merely seek another

            B.        One preacher likened it to pulling off leaves on a dandelion.

                        1.         It will just grow more because the root remains

                        2.         You can’t grind it out of a person - Proverbs 27:22

            C.        The atheist is wrapped up in self-deceit - Proverb 14:7-9

            D.        Correction is rejected - Proverbs 15:5

            E.        He will either get mad or mock you - Proverbs 29:9

            F.        We need to discover and deal with the underlying motivation

V.        My point is that you are not going to find the perfect argument, the be-all-end-all bolted down logical argument to persuade an atheist out of his belief there is no God, but that is because he isn’t an atheist because of logical reasoning

            A.        Oh, he will tell you that his reasons are intellectual, but prove him wrong and he will simply create another excuse

            B.        Richard Dawkins was once asked what would persuade him that God exist

                        1.         He said, “Well, I used to say it would be very simple. It would be the second coming of Jesus or a great, big, deep, booming, bass Paul Robeson voice saying, “I am God, and I created.” But I was persuaded...that even if there was this booming voice in the second coming in clouds of glory, the more probable explanation is that it’s a hallucination, or a conjuring trick by David Copperfield, or something...A supernatural explanation for anything is incoherent. It doesn’t add up to an explanation for anything.”

                        2.         When further pressed, Dawkins said, “Well, I’m starting to think nothing would, which, in a way, goes against the grain, because I’ve always paid lip service to the view that a scientist should change his mind when evidence is forthcoming.”

                        3.         In other words, no amount of evidence will convince this man that God exists

            C.        Thus, you’ll have to get to what is motivating his rejection of God and that may be hard to find and hard to deal with

                        1.         I read one man’s account. He was a preacher’s kid who turned atheist, but what cracked his armor was a stranger who talked with him and before leaving simply said, “God loves you and someone is praying for you.”

                        2.         It reminded him of his mother. He responded with anger because it hit him in his heart but it was enough to start him thinking again about why he chose atheism.

                        3.         What was funny is that he stated he became an atheist because of logic, but it wasn’t logic that hit the foundation of his beliefs

            D.        Don’t be afraid to talk with an atheist because you don’t know strong intellectual arguments. Many times what is needed is someone to listen and to answer the heart.

Based on “The Motivated Atheist” by Matthew W. Bassford

Additional Source: Tim Barnett, “Why Evidence Will Not Convince Some Atheists,” Stand to Reason, 22 January 2019.

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